Pattye Benson

Community Matters

TTRC

Negative Political Campaigning Needs to End . . . Election Day 2010 Cannot Come Soon Enough!

Tuesday cannot get here soon enough! Turn on the television and you are certain to see a barrage of negative campaign ads from various candidates attacking their opponents. With Election Day 2010 just days away, households across America are being attacked by negative political ads. Without an invitation, the negative attack ads are finding their way into our homes, by way of television, robo-calls, on our computers and in our mailboxes.

Everyday someone says to me they cannot wait until Wednesday when it’s over, and Election Day 2010 will be only a memory. The amount of time, energy and money spent on negative sound bites feels eternal… and maybe it is. With unlimited dollars (both domestic and foreign) buying airtime, it takes a persistent and dedicated voter to ferret-out all the paid-for misinformation. People complain and say they hate the ads, the mailers, the political phone calls and the mudslinging that we see in the news articles and the opinion pieces. But they must work. After all, it is amazing how much money is spent on these political campaigns.

Look at the contents of the political ads on TV and in the campaign mailers. The distortion, the exaggerations, the misleading claims – the blatant lies. True or false? Fact or Fiction? Most of the campaign ads are more like half-truths, half-falsehoods – and a lot of embellishment.

But do these negative ads actually work . . . do they influence decisions? I would like to hope that they don’t work and that they don’t influence voters. I want to believe that voters are smarter and more informed and that they rise above the distortions and exaggerations. Unfortunately, psychological research has shown that the brain processes negative information more deeply than positive information. Guess political campaigners support the scientific research and have decided that negative ads do work – at least better than positive ads.

By the time the calendar hit mid-October, the viciousness of the negative ads had picked up momentum. And it is no surprise that the closer the individual race, the more negative the ads. Research suggests that negative campaign ads work even though people hate them. I think the potential also exists that people just get tired of the negative campaign season and that this feeling can actually drive the voter turnout down. Eventually, after being influenced by the candidate’s negative campaigning, is it possible that a voter would just stay home on Tuesday, thinking “why bother?”

Negative ads can have a powerful impact; people tend to remember them. . . . Isn’t that why bad news always enjoys more ‘play time’ on TV than good news. I would bet that none of these ads tells the whole truth – the truth you would accept as a reasonable person. Almost all the negative ads are partial or biased on one way or another or just misleading. In a perfect world, positive ads would have as much an impact as the negative ones. What would happen if someone ran an issue-based campaign with no mention of the opponent and no mudslinging? Would an issue-based campaign ever be possible in today’s society? Would it even work?

Where does all this leave us for Election Day; what is a voter to do? There are no campaign enforcement police making sure everyone is telling the truth. My hope for all of you who hold the privilege to vote is to think for yourself. Do a little research and use that developed human brain of yours. Please try not to be influenced by the negative campaign ads. Your vote is worth more than a nay saying ad or a half-truth campaign mailer.

I hope that residents in our community have enough sense and reason to make logical decisions and can only hope that others beyond Tredyffrin will do the same. I would ask that you stay informed by multiple sources. Think for yourself, beyond what your neighbor, your friend or co-worker favors. Know the candidates and support those who have shown ethical behavior. Exercise your right to vote in a sane, thoughtful manner and make your vote count this Tuesday!

Do Political Campaign Signs influence your vote? How About in the Drucker vs Kampf election?

Do political campaign signs make a difference in in election results? Do they influence individual voter decisions? Do how many signs a candidate has, or conversely a perceived lack of signs by individual candidates have any effect on voters?

In driving around the township yesterday, there certainly is a plethora of political signage. At least now, the leftover campaign signs of former Republican Lieutenant Governor Candidate Daryl Metcalfe are no longer alone. Metcalfe came in a distant third in the May primary but his red and white signs remain ever-present in our community 5 months later! Which begs the question, which is responsible for removal of the signs post-election . . . the candidate, the political party, volunteers?

Political signs display grassroots support. When voters display your political campaign signs in their yards, it shows neighbors that they believe in you enough to temporarily alter the landscape of their property. Recognizing the power of that association, does that influence other voters?

Among the traditional campaign signs, I noted a new political sign, ‘Republican for Paul Drucker’. As a Democrat and incumbent State House Representative Candidate, Paul is looking to gather support from the registered voters of the opposing party. Do we expect that the Warren Kampf campaign will likewise use signage touting registered democrat voter support? With the growing ‘Independent’ party affiliation among voters, is there signage claiming ‘Independent for Drucker’ or ‘Independent for Kampf’ on the horizon from either candidate?

Voter turnout was very low in the primary and historically Tredyffrin Township has not fared much differently in the general election (especially non-presidential election years). However, with the Governor’s race at stake this year, can we hope for a better than average turnout. Low voter turnouts make is easier for single-issue candidates and candidates with narrow but deep support make a good showing. If you are one of those folks, than you probably don’t want to tell the public when the election is. However, if you are a serious candidate with broad appeal than why not tell the public when to vote.

To inform the voters, and build interest in the fact that there’s an election date coming, why not some signs stating Election Day November 2 or at least on Tuesday, November 2, signs that say “Today’s the day”.

As a registered voter hoping for greater voter turnout, Election Day signage is something that I could support! I’d like to make a suggestion that the township as a public service could set-up those temporary sign boards to notify the public of the upcoming election.

Quick Response from Township Manager & Public Works . . . Political Campaign Signs Removed from Township Park

I received a response from township manager, Mimi Gleason thanking me for me email and explaining that the township would take care of the removal of the political campaign signs from Swedesford Road Open Space Park. Within minutes of receiving the email, a public works truck and two township workers arrived at the park. A township worker stood on the top of a tall ladder and a garden rake and his long reach were required to remove the signs. Good news . . . quick response from the township and the political campaign signs are down . . . bad news is that is that it required township time and money for the removal.

I’m sure that township residents don’t want their taxpayer dollars spent this way; I ask that political candidates instruct their campaign volunteers not to use our township parks for political signage. Thank you Mimi and Steve Norcini for your quick response!

What’s the Policy on Political Campaign Signs in Tredyffrin Township Parks? And What About Nailing Signs to Township Trees?

We live across from the Swedesford Road Open Space Park. During the last 24 hours someone either used a ladder or climbed up a township park tree and nailed 3 political campaign signs into one of the trees. We have lived here for 26 years and there has never been signs nailed on these trees. If the trees were on private property and the individual had permission, I guess it would be OK. Although I still would question the damage it may do to the tree. But the point is the tree with the signs is on township open space property.

During the political campaign season, you may see signs along Swedesford Road, particularly on private property or along the sides of the road but never on the park property. I sent an email to the Board of Supervisors asking what the policy was concerning political campaign signs in our township parks but have not yet had a response. If over zealous campaign workers had planted the typical metal campaign signs, you could simply remove them if the signs were in an inappropriate place. But these signs are at least 10 ft. up the tree and would require a ladder for installation or removal.

I do not think political campaign signs should be nailed to trees in township parks. On my email to the supervisors from my husband and I, I copied the township manager, head of public works Steve Norcini and township solicitor Tom Hogan. I asked the policy and asked for the removal of the signs. I do not think the signs should be removed at taxpayers expense nor should it be the responsibility of the township’s public works staff to climb the tree and remove the signs . . . rather, I would hope that the political campaign responsible would remove the signs.

I have not taken a trip around to visit other township parks but I am hopeful there have been no other defacing of township property.

PA State Representative 157 Race . . . Candidate Question #2 and Response

This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the Pennsylvania State House 157 candidates. As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum. Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question. Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted. The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #2: How do you propose to encourage job growth in the Commonwealth and specifically in your district?

Paul Drucker’s Response:

The length and depth of this economic downturn is astounding. I think a great deal about my friends, neighbors and constituents who are unemployed or struggling to keep their businesses afloat—and I know that we have to do a better job of fostering a climate of economic growth in Pennsylvania.

While I am proud of some of the economic development projects I helped bring to the district, like the $1 million grant to the Paoli train station that will produce 5,000 construction jobs and 2,000 permanent jobs, I also know we need fundamental changes to Pennsylvania’s business climate.

First, we need to invest in a modern day infrastructure that includes new roads and bridges, better rail access and high-speed internet in rural areas. Next, we need to ensure Pennsylvania students have the best education in America. Finally, we need to help our small businesses grow and expand with a fair tax burden and access to low-interest grants and loans for new equipment and technology.

PA State House Representative 157 Race . . . Candidate Question #1 and Response

This is the Candidate Question & Response Forum for the State House 157 candidates. As previously stated, candidate Warren Kampf declined to participate in the question and response forum. Candidate Paul Drucker’s response follows the question. Each Monday for six weeks, a new question and response will be posted. The candidate forum will end the week before the election.

Question #1: How is the Commonwealth going to help the Tredyffrin-Easttown School District’s ballooning pension obligations?

Paul Drucker’s Response:

It is important to note that there is no silver bullet to fix the pension obligations of Tredyffrin-Easttown or any of the other school districts in the 157th district. The situation in which we currently find ourselves is a cumulative effort that has been in development over the past 11 years of irresponsible handling of the pension system, combined with the stock market collapse of 2008.

Eleven years ago the rules were changed concerning vesting, multiplier rates, lump sum payouts, actuarial analysis and other matters. As a result, the Commonwealth and the respective school districts find themselves with millions of dollars of unfunded liabilities and are facing a potential spike in the payments due in the immediate future in the billions of dollars.

There are some acts the legislature can take to begin fixing this problem. This session, the House passed a pension reform bill that relieves many of these problems. By reducing the multiplier used to calculate benefits, eliminating the lump-sum payout employees receive and raising the retirement age, we addressed this crisis in a responsible, bi-partisan manner. 194 members of the House voted in favor of the bill (although, surprisingly, my opponent has stated that he opposes it). While the Senate has not yet taken action, I strongly encourage them to do so.

Why Does Tredyffrin’s 2011 Budget Discussion Have to be a Political Party Debate? Why Does Transparency and Open Government Need to be Criticized?

Wayne resident, Rob Betts wrote a letter to the editor which appears in this week’s Main Line Suburban, as a rebuttal to a written statement by Dariel Jamieson, chair of the Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee, delivered at the June Board of Supervisors meeting – here is a copy of the TTDEMS 2011 Budget Proposal as presented.

Although Ms. Jamieson represented herself as chair of the TTDEMS at the June Board of Supervisors Meeting when presenting her statement, I wrote the following in a June 22 post on Community Matters:

” . . . The suggested TTDEMS 2011 budget process further includes a request that the budget discussion occur in an open and transparent manner with public involvement.

Although the proposed 2011 budget process was suggested by the local Democratic Committee, I do not believe their recommendations are politically polarizing. Rather, this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

I found Rob Betts op-ed article interesting on several levels. In reading the article, what first jumped out at me was a missing piece of information. Members of the community have been quick to criticize those that write political opinion articles and do not state their own political affiliations. Personally, I believe that if an individual is writing on a non-political topic, such as Ed Sweeney’s letter to the editor last week as a member of the Knights of Columbus, there should be no need to identify with a political party. However, if someone is writing on a political topic, I agree with critics that the writer should inform the reader of their political affiliation such as a committee person for either the local Democratic or Republican parties. For the record, Mr. Betts overlooked providing his political affiliation as the GOP committeeman for E-4 in his letter to the editor.

Reading Mr. Betts op-ed article, and of his membership on the BAWG committee (and participation in the subsequent BAWG report) brought back memories for me. I recall standing in front of the Board of Supervisors last fall and asking a series of questions regarding the BAWG report and the $50K St. Davids sidewalk offer contained in the report. If you recall, I provided the supervisors with questions in advance; one which included a question about whether any BAWG members were members of St. Davids Golf Club. If memory serves me correctly, Tom Coleman (as chair of the BAWG committee) was asked to answer my question and he reported that Mr. Betts was a St. Davids Golf Club member, but quickly added that Mr. Betts had recused himself for any votes related to St. Davids.

So in reading Mr. Betts letter, I had to ask myself why is he so seemingly concerned about the transparent budget process that Ms. Jamieson suggested in her proposal? But, when I recall the St. Davids Golf Club $50K sidewalk offer, and the attempt to cover-up the offer contained in the report, I guess I have my answer. We all remember the negative attention that our township and supervisors received over the St. Davids Golf Club offer!

Transparency from our elected officials is important to me and it saddens me to know that people can be criticized for wanting that kind of open and honest government. I believe that the suggestions that Ms. Jamieson posed in her 2011 Budget Proposal were ones that we could all support. I would take it a step further and suggest that rather than representing the TTDEMS with her proposal, I believe that the suggestions may have been better served if presented as a resident rather than a political party chair. However, I understand that as chair of the TTDEMS, Ms. Jamieson probably thought it best that her remarks be with full disclosure.

As I said in my Community Matters post of June 22, ” . . . this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).”

Below is Rob Betts letter to the editor . . . you make your own judgement.

Openness plea a Dem power play

To the Editor:

I was left shaking my head at the demand from Dariel Jamieson that the Tredyffrin Township supervisors open up the budget process to more public scrutiny. I believe the request is nothing more than an attempt by Democrats to discredit the budget once it is adopted by claiming it wasn’t “open.”

The Democrats’ goal is to increase the scope of government at all levels, which requires an increase in revenue, and unlike Washington, our supervisors can’t print money. An Earned Income Tax is their ultimate goal, but without any Democrats on the Board of Supervisors, the best they can do is complain about the process. The request for openness is just their way of saying the 2011 supervisor election has begun.

As a member of the Budget Advisory Working Group last year, I can assure you that the township budget is lean. Much of the township’s budget is fixed due to debt service and collectively bargained contracts. The supervisors refinanced a significant portion of the township’s long-term debt this year (a BAWG recommendation), leaving union contracts and their benefit cost as issues to be addressed.

The current contracts with the township’s unions run through 2013 so those costs are fixed for the current budget cycle. Long-term, the defined-benefit system and free retiree health care for uniformed employees must be changed, for all levels of government, not just Tredyffrin Township. Our supervisors should be applauded for forcing arbitration with the police union on the health-care issue and maintaining the township’s AAA credit rating during the recent bond refinancing.

The Democrats are ready to start the next supervisor election. Look for lawn signs in December.

Rob Betts, Wayne

Tredyffrin Democrats Submit 2011 Budget Proposal Suggestions to Republican Board of Supervisors

During the ‘New Matters – Citizens’ section of last night’s Board of Supervisors meeting, the chair of Tredyffrin Township Democratic Committee Dariel Jamieson presented a suggested 2011 budget proposal on behalf of the Executive Board of the township’s Democratic Committee. Dariel provided a copy of the statement to BOS chair Lamina and offered that a copy would be emailed to all members of the Board of Supervisors. Here is a copy of the TTDEMS statement.

The township’s budget discussion has historically occurred late in the calendar year which adds a heightened level of stress to an already stressful situation. With that in mind, the TTDEMS have suggestions to address the 2011 budget process. Their recommendations included:

  • Complete review of BAWG’s 2010 budget recommendations
  • Public presentation of all options for increasing revenue & decreasing expenses
  • October timeline for reaching budget consensus

The suggested TTDEMS 2011 budget process further includes a request that the budget discussion occur in an open and transparent manner with public involvement.

Although the proposed 2011 budget process was suggested by the local Democratic Committee, I do not believe their recommendations are politically polarizing. Rather, this suggested 2011 budget process encourages a thoughtful, systematic budget approach in difficult and challenging economic times; a process that many residents in the township would probably support (regardless of their political affiliation).

PA State House 157 Candidates Drucker & Kampf . . . Campaign Finance Reporting

In the days leading up to the May Primary, comparison of expenditures between State House 157 Republican candidates Ken Buckwalter and Warren Kampf was discussed on Community Matters. At that time, some Community Matters readers criticized me for not discussing the expenditures of Democrat candidate State House Representative Paul Drucker. I explained that as an unopposed, endorsed candidate I thought it would be more appropriate to compare Drucker’s campaign expenses after the Primary (when we knew the identify of his Republican opponent). However, as a reader has recently commented, the Primary is over, Warren Kampf is the Republican candidate and the campaign finance reports are available.

Comparing the latest campaign finance reports of 5/3/10 of both Drucker and Kampf was an interesting exercise. (Campaign finance reports are public documents). Looking at the campaign finance reports shows you various things, including the level of funding received by candidates, listing of candidates expenditures and specific donations received by the candidates.

Here are the candidates totals as of 5/3/10:

  • Combining candidates contributions carried over from 2009 with funds raised during the first 4 months of 2010: Drucker $65,925.02; Kampf $58,448.49.
  • Total expenditures of candidates: Drucker $53,297.25; Kampf $33,896.18.
  • Ending available balance of candidates (after deducting expenditures and unpaid debts): Drucker $9,627.77; Kampf $14,907.31.

Looking at Schedule III of the campaign finance reports for Drucker and Kampf, it is interesting to look at how each candidate spent money. Below is a breakdown of the top expenses of each campaign:

  • Major Drucker Campaign Expenses: $33,716.98 consulting; Paoli office rental $1,000/mo plus utilities; Phoenixville office rental $450/mo; $1,025 computer software.
  • Major Kampf Campaign Expenses: $14,445 mailers; $6,535 consulting; $7,107 postage; $5,500 website; $1,982 signs

So where did the candidates receive their major campaign funding to date? The campaign finance report details the (1) Political Committee Contributions of $50.01 to $250 and over $250 and (2) All Other Contributions of $50.01 to $250 and over $250. Any contribution of $50 or less is not required to be reported.

Both candidates have received many donations from generous supporters. For the purposes of this discussion, I am only going to focus on the contributions that are $1,000 or greater.

In the category of Political Committee Contributions $1,000 or greater, the candidates received the following donations:

  • Drucker: Bricklayers Local 1 $1,000; Citizens Elect Dwight Evans for State Rep $2,500; International Electrical Workers $1,000; Iron Workers Local 401 $1,000; LawPac $1,000
  • Kampf: Aqua America Political Action Committee $1,000, White and Williams LLP PAC $2,000

In the category of All Other Contributions $1,000 or greater, the candidates received the following donations:

  • Drucker: Michael Barrett, Esq. $1,000; Larry Bendesky, Esq. $1,000; Stewart Eisenberg, Esq. $1,000; Ronald Kovlar, Esq. $1,000; Robert Mongeluzzi, Esq. $1,000; Deborah Willig, Esq. $1,000
  • Kampf: Paul Olson $2,500; John Piasecki $1,000; Robin Kohn $1,000; Edmund McGurk $1,000; James McErlane, Esq. $5,000

I remember hearing that the State House 157 race between Paul Drucker and Guy Ciarrocchi was the most expensive race in Pennsylvania’s 2008 election year. The amount of money spent on the 2008 race was shocking. How will the contributions in the Drucker and Kampf match up to the 2008 level of funding? Although the campaign contributions and expenditures indicated in the campaign finance report for Drucker and Kampf would seem high, I think it is safe to assume that raising money in today’s economic climate will be far more difficult than just a couple of years ago.

But then again, should it really need to cost $500K or more to win a Pennsylvania state representative seat? Personally, I would hate to think that Drucker and Kampf will expend anywhere near that kind of money between now and November’s general election. Much time can be spent by candidates “dialing for dollars” to a select few rather than talking with a wide range of voters about their beliefs, hopes and needs. It would seem that the endless competition for funds from special interest groups weakens the role of civic dialogue and can create ineffective governance.

Pennsylvania is one of only five states that have no contribution limits and no public financing of elections. As a state representative in Pennsylvania, with a 2-year term, you no sooner are elected than you are soliciting funds for the next campaign – almost as if fundraising becomes a second profession. The lax laws mean a candidate can spend an enormous amount of money on a campaign. This puts pressure on incumbents to keep their coffers filled in case of a well-financed challenge.

The rules on funding campaigns in Pennsylvania need to change. There are good proposals out there; lawmakers just need courage to vote on them.

Devon Resident Bill Bellew’s Remarks at Monday’s Board of Supervisors Meeting Appear as Letter to the Editor

In a post yesterday, I provided a YouTube link for Bill Bellew’s comments at Monday night’s Board of Supervisor meeting. Several people have asked me if I had a ‘hard copy’ of his remarks so I was delighted to see that Bill submitted his comments in a Letter to the Editor in this week’s edition of the Main Line Suburban Life newspaper. Bill’s words provide a powerful statement. (see below).

I agree with Bill that we (supervisors and residents) need to be looking ahead to the 2011 budget. Mid-year provides an excellent opportunity to review the actual vs budgeted expenses and revenues of the 2010 budget to date. (the next supervisors meeting in June marks the halfway point). In addition to a mid year 2010 budget review, work needs to begin on the 2011 budget. The 2010 township budget required major cuts across the board, including personnel, fire and library funding, etc. If you recall, by this time last year the BAWG was in place and well underway in 2010 budget discussions.

The 2011 budget cannot wait until November or December; delaying the discussion does not demonstrate fiscal responsibility.

Tredyffrin drama must end

To the Editor:

Day after day, Tredyffrin seems to be bombarded with political drama without an end in sight. Now in May of 2010, the budget “play” leading up to the 2010 year is still out there. A personal opinion might be that the Board of Supervisors might have told the firefighters serving the township ahead of time that a cut in funding had to be made. Added to that might have been a suggestion that together, the BOS and the firefighters could join forces to fill the void.

The reality is that filling the void was not on the BOS’ minds beforehand. Only when the “people of all walks of life” rose in a concerted chorus to point out what impact the “modest 5-percent” cut would have on the three fire companies (our leading volunteers) did the BOS see the dilemma they created for themselves.

For some unknown reason, the BOS has been unwilling to share where the $24,000-plus in contributions to fill the void came from. Let’s end the political drama three of the BOS members created. Here is what I know to be fact:

1) The Republican Party spearheaded the effort to acquire the funding.

2) They did it ahead of schedule and raised more than they thought they would.

3) The party did not write a check – their members wrote individual checks in excess of $5,000 – or approximately 20 percent of the total raised.

4) Six large donations from companies, trusts, and law firms totaled $5,500 – or approximately 23 percent of the total raised.

5) Eight present or former members of the BOS contributed $2,800.

6) One present board member contributed $5,000, which is not part of other contributions listed here. Yes – five thousand dollars.

7) The remainder came from other sources solicited by the Republican Party.

8) Now that is political purpose!!! Hats off to the party for this work. Thank you from all of us.

What many citizens do not understand is why the BOS has taken courses of action that have stirred controversy and raised the hair on the back of our collective necks for no intelligent reason. The two examples to be mentioned are the cutting of the fire-company budget without sharing that with the firefighters beforehand, and the totally unbelievable vote on the sidewalks near Mt. Pleasant.

Transparency in this township is starting to disappear. Some of the present board appear to be turning what happens in Tredyffrin into a back-room game to be run by political hacks.

A few weeks ago, the chair of the BOS wrote his second major article since Dec. 9 of last year explaining himself and his actions. Why? Why is it necessary that so much effort be put into all of this when – if the BOS had been up-front and open – we could be talking about the future and not the past?

What were you thinking? We are not stupid people. My personal feeling is that the BOS has brought the dysfunctional politics of Washington to our community. Ladies and gentlemen of the board – respectfully – knock it off.

We are looking for leadership – not a “bully pulpit” approach to township business. We are looking for progress – not a drama. If the chair thinks “we’re doing what we believe is the people’s business” by the present-day actions of this board, then he is sadly mistaken. The political game is exactly that – a game. The BOS was elected to govern. do it !!!

We have too many important issues in front of us – the largest of which is how we will fund 2011 and beyond. How do we partner with each other to raise funds both privately and collectively? How do we encourage the volunteer spirit to continue across the entire township playing field? How do we make the necessary changes in the budget process?

Keep your eye on the ball, members of the board. Serve the constituents who elected you – all of them. No more surprises. The people of Tredyffrin are watching.

This is indeed a great place to live, and the BOS has helped make it that. Don’t go backwards.

Bill Bellew , Devon

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